The Most Alive Land on Earth: Lure of Loggers or Paradise?
|December 4, 2013||Posted by Staff under Corruption, Environmental|
It has been said that PNG has the most equal distribution of land on earth. The country’s constitution protects customary land rights and there is virtually no private ownership. Land is almost entirely controlled by clans and tribes. The constitution sets self-reliance, sovereignty, and the sustainable management of natural resources as overarching principles for the country.
Yet, even with these legal protections, a massive land rush is currently taking place in the country. In recent years, 12 percent of the country, 5.5 million hectares, has been leased out to foreign corporations, ostensibly to launch agricultural projects. Yet these firms appear to be mostly occupied with harvesting timber that is then exported to overseas markets.
As a result, PNG is now the second largest exporter of tropical logs in the world, after Malaysia, and exports more than 3 million cubic meters of logs every year, primarily to China.
In many deals, landowners were blatantly misled about the size and the nature of an agribusiness project. The logging occurs without free, prior, and informed consent of the local people. State agencies such as the Lands Department, the Department of Agriculture and Livestock, and the Forest Authority fail to perform their duties: fraud, misconduct, and incompetence as well as overall lack of adherence to proper procedures.
Offering Papua New Guinea’s natural resources to foreign interests has made the country one of the fastest growing economies in the world [benefitting insiders, another instance of the "resource curse], a paradox of wealth without development. People have little or no access to safe drinking water, health facilities, nor schools.
The problem does not lie in the law. [It lies in law enforcement.]
Ed. Notes: How many more times must people note the irony of Progress and Poverty — the title of the most famous book on economic reform by Henry George back in the 19th c. — before they finally see the connection and how to uncouple it? The central problem is that people see the profit from land as up for grabs. So a partnership of investors and government officials grab it, leaving ruin for the rest of society. What the rest of society must do is to declare loudly and as many times as it takes that the surplus, rental value of land, resources, and locations is a common wealth, not an object of speculation, but a stream of wealth for all members of society to share, a la Alaska, Singapore, and a handful of other places. It can’t be said often enough, loud enough. Not until the land-squeezing stops and the rent-sharing begins.